Night #15: Malevolent (2018)


Directed By: Olaf De Fleur

Psychics are generally a shady bunch of people, pretending to contact the dead and generally robbing grieving people of their money, so I’m usually happy to see them get taken down a peg or two (Can you tell that today has been a long day?) and that’s just what a new offering from Netflix uh…offers.

Brother and sister duo Jackson and Angela are Americans living in Scotland during the 80s. We’re introduced to them as they run their operation on a grieving father and his daughter. His wife, her mother, died of cancer but they’re sure that something still lingers. The duo and their team run their con and cleanse the house of the mother, informing the family that she’s now been able to move on to a better place.

Eventually they’re brought to the house of Mrs Green who informs them that she ran an orphanage for young girls, only they were killed by her son Herman finally snapped. Since then she’s heard the voices of the girls and wants them gone, which is perfectly understandable.

Soon enough Mrs Green proves she’s not to be messed with as she sees through Jackson’s spiel. She just wants the job done and dusted. But of course nothing is that easy and soon enough it all goes wrong.

It’s a shame that this movie (A Netflix original, which seems less of a boast and more of a warning) ultimately squanders any goodwill it gains because the first hour is a good effective ghost story that then turns into something altogether less unnerving and more nasty. It attempts to tie it all together with some thematic nods to families – there’s a subplot about Jackson and Angela’s mother, her ‘gift’ and eventual terrible suicide that is all but forgotten about – and while it’s interesting it’s overshadowed by the excess of the finale.

It also squanders a performance by Florence Pugh as Angela who is great in the first part of the movie and has nothing to work with when we get to the third act. She’s great at conveying fear and trepidation as she realises that perhaps her pretend gift is actually real and isn’t sure how to process it. Everything about the movie in fact is better at this point (though there’s the sad reliance on jump scares) until it feels as though whatever ending was originally intended was tossed aside in the name of a big climax.

As you can probably tell I’m struggling to find anything to actually say about this beyond ‘starts good, ends shit’ but there’s not a lot to say. You can certainly do a lot worse than this (I start to break out in spasms whenever I think of the glut of Amazon ‘originals’) but that’s hardly a glowing recommendation. Watch it for Pugh and the first, good hour. Then turn it off and think of a better ending.


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